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We used our heartbreaking 2016 Kingspan defeat as an incentive, reveals McKee

By Jonathan Bradley

The emotions experienced by Campbell College captain John McKee as he lifted the Danske Bank Schools' Cup at Kingspan Stadium yesterday could hardly have been in starker contrast to his last final.

The east Belfast school won the competition for the 24th time thanks to their victory over Royal School Armagh, ending a seven-year wait for the famous old trophy.

McKee was one of the players playing in his second final having been part of the Campbell side that lost to RBAI two years ago, and he admitted afterwards that the hurt from that day had been used as inspiration to finish his school rugby career on the highest of highs.

"There was real heartbreak two years ago but we used that as motivation, the few of us who were involved," said the loosehead who has captained Ulster Under-18s. "We said to ourselves, 'If we get here again, we won't let it get away'.

"When we got the opportunities we took them and we defended with heart. That's what you need. It's an incredible feeling. I watched them winning when I was in P7 and said to myself that I wanted to do that one day and it's great to have done it in my last year."

Former Ireland No.8 Brian Robinson, who coaches at Campbell, has seen his side play better this season but acknowledged that come Cup final day, it's only the result that matters.

"I'm delighted," he said. "I was here two years ago with the side against Inst and we came out on the wrong side. Cup finals are about getting the result.

"We didn't play as well as we could, and we're maybe disappointed with the performance but delighted with the result."

Armagh enjoyed lengthy spells with the ball, but just like Methody in the semi-finals, could find no way to break through Campbell's dogged defence.

"Our defence is a recent thing," admitted Robinson. "Up until Christmas we struggled defensively. We played Armagh eight weeks ago and shipped four tries at home. It's a mentality thing. The group has really come together and it showed there with this win."

As well as working so well without the ball, Campbell scored at just the right times. Their first try came just before the break, striking an important psychological blow, while their second, through full-back Conor Rankin, came at a time when Armagh had been piling on the pressure.

"It was very important to get that score just before half-time," said Robinson. "The wind was pretty severe and they had the ball for long periods. I thought we were quite comfortable defensively but we couldn't get our attacking game going.

"Scoring just before half-time, psychologically it's a massive thing. It gave us that buffer going into half-time.

"Cup finals are about taking opportunities. I don't know if it was a true reflection of the game but we scored at vital times. You don't want to be in a one-score game with five minutes to go but we kept that buffer."

Robinson reserved special praise for Neil Doak, who has been on the coaching ticket this season. The former Ulster head coach will be back in the pro game next season with Aviva Premiership side Worcester.

"When the opportunity came to work with Doakie, we jumped at it but I knew that he'd be snapped up by somebody. He's too good a coach not to be in professional rugby," Robinson added.

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